I’ve long been inspired by our native bushland, particularly heath and grassland communities. But as those who have experienced the notion that ‘Australian native gardens don’t need any work’ find out the hard way, just shoving lots of plants into the ground doesn’t result in an attractive landscape. While my garden has worked rather better than that I’ve never quite managed to achieve the look I was after. As many of my original plantings are now starting to go downhill it is definitely time to give it another go.
The practical inspiration for my garden renovation has come from two books that I read over the winter months. First off was The Layered Garden: design lessons for year-round beauty from Brandywine Cottage, by David L Culp with Adam Levine. In this book Culp ably demonstrates how to make a garden with year round interest, based on a woodland approach in his own garden in Pennsylvania.
At first Planting: a new Perspective, by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, with a very scary array of planting guides seemed rather daunting, but the authors use the planting schemes to demonstrate a basic formula for planting that promotes interest throughout the year. This is a mix of plants that are fixtures of the garden year round and those that literally or figuratively disappear or recede for long parts of the year. I’m probably not explaining this too well, so I urge you to give the book a go. I found it a pretty interesting read with lots of wonderful illustrations to go with the words.
So where to begin. My choice of ground to start this work, as you can see, is not very promising,but it is on the other side of the yard from where we found the termites. Until the termites go I can’t dig where they might be disturbed. This will be a garden renovation of many parts.
I spent the morning clearing the area. At least the chooks were happy to get all the weeds that I dug out. By the time I finished the initial digging and adding some compost things were looking rather better. The space is only about 1.5 metres square so its not a lot to start with.
I spent the next few weeks adding a lot more compost and doing a lot more digging in of manures before I started planting. My feature plants are two varieties of pink flowering Correa, Correa pulchella X ‘Pink Carpet’ and Correa ‘Annabell’; the yellow flowering shrub Ozothamnus diotophyllus ‘Gold Dust’ and Zieria prostrata ‘Carpet Star’. The taller plants will grow about 1 metre in height and the two ‘carpet’ plants will spread between 1-2 metres. I’m also using Pelargonium rodneyanum (Magenta Cranesbill) as a filler plant. This will gradually spread around the garden and can be dug out if it gets too exuberant. The remaining plants in this area are ephemeral annuals. I’ve included plenty of Wahlenbergia sp (Native Bluebell) and several plants of the Bulbinopsis bulbosa (Bulbine Lily).
The Bulbine lillies are still flowering wildly attracting plenty of Hoverfly’s which are a great garden predator, as well as a common pollinator of Australian plants.
I’ve also dug out and divided a clump of one of the most striking of our local plants Eryngium rostratutm (Blue Devil) which has the most stunning spiky blue/purple flowerheads. I’ve planted the new pieces in several places around the garden to encourage the spread of this handsome plant.
You can see from the photo below that I aim to keep the majority of the plants in this part of the garden fairly low. This allows the winter sun into the front of the house.
I’ve also extended some of the planting into the existing garden, adjacent to the new section. I hope in this way to start integrating the newer plantings with the existing garden. At least I’ve managed to get some of those poor plants that I bought pre-termite moratorium, into the ground. Now I have to go and pot on the remaining plants so they can survive until I get the all clear to continue the renovation.